I recently brought a buoyancy aid to use when kayaking. One thing I noticed when purchasing it though was the 50N rating. All buoyancy aids I looked at seemed to have a 50N rating and I vaguely remember one result saying this was the minimum safety rating.

What are the safety ratings for buoyancy aids, and if these differ in other countries from the UK how do they compare?

2 Answers 2


50N refers to 50 newtons. This is the buoyancy force that the buoyancy aid provides (10N ~= 1kg). This site has some useful information on buoyancy aids and ratings.

50N is the pretty much the standard rating for things like kayaking or dinghy sailing, with the occasional higher rating (60/70N). However, note that they are not designed to self right and so won't stop you drowning if unconscious. Therefore they are advised for use only when help is readily available.

100N buoyancy aids basically foam life-jackets and are primarily designed for weak/non-swimmers and to protect against drowning if unconscious. However, there is still a risk of drowning as not may not self right and does not protect well against heavy seas.

150N is generally inflatable life-jackets. These provide better protection against drowning but are obviously not suitable for kayaking, dinghy sailing or anything where you are likely to go in the water.

  • To add on this. 50N is for sports use, helping with swimming even when you're exhausted from waterskiing etc. 50N to 150N is for use in coastal and inland waters. 250N is for use on open water and can keep you alive even with heavy weather clothing.
    – HTDutchy
    Aug 6, 2014 at 12:13

The bare-minimum that I'd buy should have a 50 Newton.

50 Newton

The guys I've known who do Surfing, Water-skiing, Kayaking, Water-sailing, Canoeing and all sorts of crazy water sports stuff, would go for a 50N rated aid. It also depends on how much are you going to bank on that, right? And, mainly this is applicable to all those who knows swimming or rather most suitable for competent swimmers. So it does imply that the help is really at the hand and within reach without much of a hassle.

100 Newton

The 100 Newton thingy is more suitable for usage in more troubled waters, probably for ones with yachts and Powerboats in waters where the help is at a relatively longer distance. It should be used by Non-swimmers, or may be 'Not-so-good' kind of swimmers in calm waters since they assure a reasonable safety from drowning in relatively calm waters.

150 newton

Its rather a 'Do-whatever-you-want-and-get-away' kind of a safety aid. Its suitable for Swimmers as well Non-swimmers in troubled water. Absolute safety, rather as @nivag said, its more of a inflatable Life-Jacket and indeed gives reasonable assurance of safety from drowning.

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